The Federal Government has said it would support “any’’ mechanism to ensure the inclusion of Nigerians abroad in future elections.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama said this at a seminar on the validation of proposed “National Policy on Diaspora Matters’’ in Abuja on Thursday.
Onyeama was represented by the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Amb. Sola Enikanolaiye.
The minister said there was the need to promote the capacity of Nigerians abroad to achieve the “immense potential of the diaspora’’.
He added that enhanced inclusion of Nigerians abroad in the voting process would support their contributions to national development.
“This is for the socio-political and economic development of the nation.
“In addition, the empowerment of Nigerians in the Diaspora as change agents for national development should be speedily scaled up.
“On our part, we deeply support any mechanism for the inclusion of Nigerian Diaspora to participate in future elections,’’ he said.
He urged that the challenges impeding the effectiveness of Nigerians abroad should be considered.
“Many of them (Diaspora) are deeply concerned about the situation in the country and have critical skills and potential that could be harnessed to solving Nigeria’s sociology-economic challenges.
“What has been lacking is the mechanism of effective engagement and interface with the government, with a view to ensuring that our country reaps fully the benefits of this engagement.
“The ministry, therefore, sharpening its in-house resources to effectively harness the potential of Nigerians wherever they are based.’’
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs Sen. Monsurat Sunmonu said that the committee was in touch with the Independent National Electoral Committee on Diaspora voting.
Sunmonu added that efforts were being made by the committee to promote opportunities for Nigerians abroad to participate in future elections.
She reiterated that Nigerians had “huge potential if properly harnessed would contribute to the development of the country’’.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs, Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa also emphasised the need to strengthen the diaspora policy.
Dabiri-Erewa said that the development of a viable policy would address the concerns of Nigerians abroad.
“We cannot ignore our diaspora; when Ireland went into recession they reached out to their diaspora community and one thousand of them saved the country from recession.
“Now that Nigeria is going through challenges, we cannot have this enormous human resource and not engage with them.
“We are working on the diaspora policy today; with the document, we have identified a few challenges impeding the effective contributions of Nigerians in the diaspora.
“We do not have an accurate database of Nigerians in the diaspora; there is the lack of an enabling environment, bilateral agreements on avoidance of double taxation, and integrated framework for Nigerians in the diaspora.
“Let us have a policy that we will be proud of.’’
She said that a technical committee would be set up to work on the recommendations agreed on and come up with an action plan for implementation.
Dabiri-Erewa also emphasised that the passing into law of the Diaspora Commission Bill would facilitate the realisation of a commission that would address diaspora matters.
“The eighth assembly has taken it up, the house has passed it, we are waiting on the Senate to pass it and it has assured that it will pass.
“It is going to be a one-stop agency to deal with diaspora matters, domiciled in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,’’ she said.